Er­do­gan speech high­lights Turkey’s di­vi­sions

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY KA­REEM FAHIM ka­reem.fahim@wash­

istanbul — Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan on Satur­day used the first an­niver­sary of a coup at­tempt against his gov­ern­ment to ac­cuse his main po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent of trea­son and por­tray civil­ian re­sis­tance to the plot as a tri­umph of the Mus­lim faith­ful.

Er­do­gan’s fiery speech be­fore a huge crowd in Istanbul high­lighted the lin­ger­ing trauma of the failed coup, which killed 250 peo­ple over the course of a ter­ri­fy­ing night and day of vi­o­lence.

The speech also showed how the events have be­come an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal cud­gel for the pres­i­dent and his Is­lamist sup­port­ers, with the vic­tory over the coup plot­ters seen as a crit­i­cal part of the gov­ern­ment’s pop­u­lar man­date.

The gov­ern­ment has blamed the coup at­tempt on loy­al­ists of Fethul­lah Gulen, a Turk­ish cleric who lives in ex­ile in Penn­syl­va­nia.

On that night, author­i­ties said, rene­gade sol­diers loyal to Gulen used tanks, planes and he­li­copters to oc­cupy or at­tack tele­vi­sion sta­tions and pub­lic build­ings, in­clud­ing par­lia­ment, and were de­feated af­ter Er­do­gan ral­lied cit­i­zens to the streets.

The events pro­vided at least a mo­men­tary sense of unity in po­lar­ized Turkey: a shared shock and re­vul­sion at the will­ing­ness of sol­diers to crush peo­ple un­der ar­mored ve­hi­cles and strafe crowds from the air with can­non fire.

That unity, though, has dis­si­pated as the gov­ern­ment cast a wide net in pur­suit of its en­e­mies, sweep­ing up the failed coup’s al­leged ac­com­plices but also dis­si­dents.

The still-murky back­ground to the coup at­tempt and the stag­ger­ing num­ber of peo­ple caught up in the en­su­ing crack­down have fu­eled the ap­pre­hen­sion. About 150,000 peo­ple have been dis­missed or sus­pended from their jobs, and 50,000 have been ar­rested.

A state of emer­gency that gives the gov­ern­ment ex­tra­or­di­nary pow­ers has re­mained in ef­fect for al­most a year, prompt­ing crit­ics to charge that Er­do­gan seized on the coup at­tempt to bol­ster his power.

The pres­i­dent has ar­gued that Turkey is united and that the events of that night clar­i­fied the line be­tween loy­alty and sedi­tion.

The com­mem­o­ra­tive events on Satur­day, planned in metic­u­lous de­tail by the gov­ern­ment, seemed de­signed to con­vey the sense of a na­tional com­ing-to­gether.

The coun­try was blan­keted by posters de­pict­ing scenes from the failed coup in the man­ner of epic paint­ings. Pub­lic trans­porta­tion and cell­phone ser­vices were pro­vided free of charge. Photo ex­hibits were set up in pub­lic squares, nar­rat­ing the chill­ing se­quence of events.

“To­day is the day the coun­try was saved,” Ibrahim Agagul said as he looked at the pic­tures Satur­day out­side an Istanbul mu­nic­i­pal build­ing where 20 peo­ple were killed. “To­day, the peo­ple wrote a saga.”

In his speech, Er­do­gan fo­cused on the no­tion of shared sac­ri­fice. “The treach­ery we face makes us stronger,” he said, speak­ing at a bridge that was the scene of ma­jor clashes dur­ing the July 2016 vi­o­lence.

His most pointed com­ments were a re­sponse to state­ments made this year by Ke­mal Kil­ic­daroglu, the leader of the main op­po­si­tion party, sug­gest­ing that the coup had un­folded with the gov­ern­ment’s knowl­edge. Over the past few weeks, Kil­ic­daroglu led a 260-mile march that was an ef­fort to high­light the purge by the author­i­ties.

“You should be ashamed of your­self,” Er­do­gan said of Kil­ic­daroglu. “This na­tion is not a cow­ard like you. This na­tion has a heart.”


A crowd chants slo­gans Satur­day on Mar­tyrs Bridge in Istanbul while wait­ing for the start of cer­e­monies com­mem­o­rat­ing the first an­niver­sary of the failed coup at­tempt against the gov­ern­ment.

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